One-stopper is the way to go – Pirelli’s race preview

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Russia, Sochi International Street Circuitru

Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli recommends a one-stop strategy for today’s Russian Grand Prix based on the long run simulations completed by the teams during Friday free practice sessions.

As Sochi has a reputation as a circuit with low tyre degradation, it is no surprise that most of the teams are set to complete the race distance of 309.745km with a one-stop strategy.

Pirelli’s head of car racing Mario Isola thinks that it will be vital for teams to time the pit stop perfectly on the Sochi Autodrom where overtaking is not always easy. “There was some overnight rain that reset the track for FP3 and qualifying, causing a bit of track evolution, but no further rain during the day. If the rain continues to hold off, we can expect a more stable track tomorrow, with a one-stopper being clearly the way forward.. Sochi is not the easiest of circuits to overtake on, so we can expect a big tactical fight in the pits and on the track tomorrow.”

The one-stopper is clearly the best strategy for today’s race. The quickest way is to start on the soft for 15 to 19 laps and then go to the hard. In practice, there might be an advantage to start on the medium instead for 14 to 22 laps and subsequently switch to the hard. This strategy also offers more flexibility in the event of a safety car, for example.

A slightly slower one-stopper is to start on the soft for 22 to 26 laps and then switch to the medium for the rest of the race: this would probably require some degree of pace management.

The Milan-based tyre manufacturer labelled the two-stop strategy as a clearly slower way to complete the 53-lap race. If someone goes for two stops then the simulations indicates that using the soft compound for the first two stints and completing the remaining laps on the medium is the best way.

Different starting tyres

The beginnings of a big strategic battle were already seen in qualifying as the current two leading teams Ferrari and Mercedes opted for a different starting tyre for today’s race. As the Sporting Regulation states, drivers have to start the race on the tyres which they set their best lap in the second segment of the qualifying session with. Although Mercedes, Ferrari and even Red Bull have the necessary time in reserve to go through the Q2 segment on the medium compound, only the Anglo-German outfit chose that way.

Isola also welcomes the different approach to the race strategy between Mercedes and Ferrari. “There’s an intriguing strategic battle in store tomorrow, with Mercedes being the only team to select the medium tyre to set their fastest Q2 times. However, we’re likely to see many different permutations of one-stopper, using all three available compounds”